Hello everyone. The journey to make 5C Aggro work in Highlander, regarding deck list and improving my play has finally gotten kinda good. Boosted by the incredible find of Palace Jailer and a lot of fine tuning through many testing sessions with Lukhan I managed to get to the Top 8 at the Highlander Cup in Bischofsheim this year. It’s still the biggest European tournament of our format with 95 participants this time, so I’m happy, although things went bad in the quarterfinal. But oh well. The journey continues. Trust the process. As I’m horrible at remembering games I will give a quick summary of my match ups. What’s a little bit sad is that I never got to meet (and beat) UR and RDW decks as I strung together an unlikely streak of going 5-0-2 through seven swiss rounds without seeing a single island or much burn. I made some card choices with regards to those decks as I figured they would show up a lot. I am still convinced I can beat them with my deck although it obviously seems vulnerable to non-basic hate. Those match ups remain a little untested at this point.
I was very happy with my list going into the tournament, highly excited about playing Palace Jailer who I figured hardly anyone would play and super determined to stay locked in throughout the day as I tend to lose my focus rather quickly when I get too happy about playing the best format in Magic.
Round 1: 2-0 vs. Naya
My opponent’s first land was Temple of Abandon and it turned out he was playing Naya. As I’ve mentioned before I love Naya and its spirit lives on in my deck to this day as Wild Nacatl always manifests. That said, my starting hand was very good, his start was slow with tapland into mana elf turn 2. And I had Eladamri’s Call in hand, which I knew I was going to turn into Palace Jailer and likely just simply win because Naya has no good way of dealing with it. Basically that is exactly what happened. I had good chat with my friendly opponent who was unaware of The Monarch being even allowed in constructed Magic and after I removed his creature with Palace Jailer and drew a bazillion of cards off of The Monarch the game was a blowout. Unfortunately he had to mulligan in Game 2 and screwed on land, while my hand was good again and I was off to a quick 2-0.
Round 2: 2-0 vs. WW
My opponent was on the play and started with a plains into a 2/1 WW-creature so the archetype was clear. I do not remember too much about the games unfortunately. I feel very good about this matchup as my multicolored greed creatures are monsters compared to the WW-critters. I also had Mother of Runes which is pretty decent against 2/1s. Also my opponent seemed a little nervous as it was his first larger tournament and wasted a Path to Exile on the Mother of Runes although he of course played it himself and knew that the mom shrugs at silly spot removal. My creatures outqualitied his and it was 1-0. In Game 2 I got beat down to a very low life total but I have been practicing to keep my nerves and use life as a resource so I went down to 3 life and then turned the game around by removing his guys and outbodying his board. I think something is wrong with this recollection but whatever I just wrote still sums up how I got to 2-0 🙂
Round 3: 2-1 vs. 4C Blood
This round I faced Christian, a former Highlander Cup winner. After experimenting with some other decks it turned out he was back on the deck he won the cup with: 4C Blood. As I knew he is likely a better player I tried to stay focused and take my time on the decisions. In game 1 I managed to get a Tarmogoyf on board against his Knight of the Reliquary and elf, after I had killed his Fleecemane Lion with a Lightning Bolt. He also had Sylvan Library. The game was decided by an interesting sequence where he showed his skill, I didn’t show mine and he made a very gutsy play that still was not good enough in the end. I was holding Zealous Persecution and attacked with my 4/5 Tarmogoyf into his 4/4 Knight of the Reliquary. I knew he could pump up the Knight to 6/6 by activating him and getting a fetchland. He blocked. I might have gotten a little too excited as I played the Zealous Persecution in response to the activation. I guess I thought he wouldn’t have the mana yet or whatever. It didn’t make sense, I should have waited for the fetchland to hit the board. Unless priority … whatever. Anyway it lead to something interesting as he instead of getting a fetchland decided to get Wasteland and destroy one of his own lands to make the Knight 7/7. After Zealous Persecution was resolved that left him with a 6/6 Knight, my Tarmogoyf was 5/6 and sadly died along with his mana elf. He was left with only one land though and the Knight after that while I still had Duskwatch Recruiter and other things. In the end he ended up having to use the Knight as a land for the rest of the game and I won with Snapcaster Mage on Lightning Bolt for the final three damage. In game 2 he took advantage of being on the play and showed what Blood is capable of by flooding the board with elf into Nissa, Voice of Zendikar into more problems. At the same time I had kept a hand with Ponder, Preordain and Brainstorm which revealed nothing but lands. I managed to kill a bunch of tokens and Aven Mindcensor with a hail mary Zealous Persecution and also got Palace Jailer with Recruiter of the Guard. Unfortunately he made me discard it and I lost with three lands in hand. In game 3 I put together a decent hand but he still managed to end up with the bigger body in a 4/4 Scavenging Ooze while I had a Duskwatch Recruiter and Qasali Pridemage. Luckily for me he had no white mana and only drew spells that require white mana for several turns. I drew Parallax Wave which took away his creatures and allowed me to go in for 5 damage a turn. He somehow stabilized but I dealt him the final 3 damage with a flying Lightning Angel I got with Worldly Tutor. His hand was four spells with white he couldn’t cast at the end.
Round 4: 2-0 vs. Abzan
Technically Abzan is 4C Blood with more consistent mana and a curve that’s a little higher. Essentially adding a color should always make the spells a little cheaper I guess, if you go through all the trouble with the fetching for it. My opponent was a solid player and also got to the Top 8. He still managed to lose an unloseable game 1. I was behind on everything the whole game and was just trying to somehow survive. He had an early Dark Confidant and while it drew him a lot of cards it was also my only hope to somehow kill him as it dealt him a lot of damage. At some point I was staring down a board of Dark Confidant, Qasali Pridemage, Noble Hierarch, Sword of Fire and Ice, Liliana the Last Hope, a freaking Thragtusk and a Treetop Village he equipped for trample once. I had a Lightning Angel he shrunk with Liliana and some silly chump blockers on board. But somehow he could not pressure hard enough. And I got in a little damage with Lightning Angel. Then Whirler Rogue provided me with more chump blockers. He kept shrinking the Lightning Angel with the Liliana. I somehow maneuvered the game to a point where I was at 13 I think. He was at 7. He attacked me for 10 and neither shot my Thopter Token nor shot his own Dark Confidant. He shot me. I went to 1 I think. I then attacked him for 3 in the air. EVASION IS VERY GOOD. He went to 4 life. I looked at his deck. I prayed. In his upkeep he revealed Garruk Wildspeaker. And lost 4 life. I won and screamed a little bit. After playing to my outs and winning this crazy thing I was feeling pretty okay. He wasn’t, he rightfully said right that he should have shot the Dark Confidant. Sometimes you have too much going for yourself. His board looked like a winner the whole game. My hand in Game 2 was great. I had Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks and Palace Jailer. And I knew if he didn’t make me discard it the game was very hard to win for him. He played an early elf and early Doran, the Siege Tower but I knew it didn’t matter. I played Voice of Resurgence turn 2 and Kitchen Finks and allowed his Tree to beat me for 5 instead of blocking because blockers are very good once you are The Monarch. I resolved Palace Jailer and the game was over. His Doran was in exile, likely forever. His only hope would have been Lingering Souls but they didn’t show up and I drew a ton of cards and won.
Round 5: 2-1 vs. Boros
I did not expect to face Boros at 4-0 I can tell you that. My opponent again was a super nice guy and started Game 1 on the play with a Student of Warfare. That creature became a problem later and I just couldn’t put together something relevant enough to stop his stuff. He had Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker he had Hellrider, he had removal and I couldn’t compete. So I just lost that game. I was down 0-1 for the first time. I was aware that he had all the non-basic hate in the world in his deck. But I also have counter spells and big boys so I felt ready. Game 2 he had Student of Warfare turn 1 again but I had Mother of Runes turn 1. And he couldn’t kill it. I managed to play the tempo game very well, he fell behind and the game got out of reach. 1-1. In game 3 I had Mother of Runes on turn 1 again. Then I had Baleful Strix. And then he couldn’t find red mana. The game became lopsided and ended with a 13/13 Warden of the First Tree protected by Mother of Runes trampling all over his his guys while he was unfortunately stuck with 6 red spells in hand. I was rooting for my opponent to make Top 8 with Boros after that but he didn’t get lucky and lost the next round as well. Meh.
Round 6 and 7 were intentional draws. I didn’t really like it, but I had the best opponent score in the field and would be on the play in the first round of the Top 8 so I played some friendly matches while waiting. In hindsight I probably should have played Round 7. It would have been great practice as I would have faced a very heavy UWR control list and thanks to my opponent score would have been in the Top 8 even if I lost. Maybe I lost 3% focus by sitting out that I would have needed in the quarter finals.
Quarter Final: 0-2 vs. Sultai Control
Unfortunately it turns out you don’t always win when you resolve Palace Jailer. I have seen my opponent at many Highlander tournaments and couldn’t impress him really. I knew he was a strong control player and seemed very focused even though we had played all day. I started game 1 with a great hand and again Mother of Runes into Voice of Resurgence. My opponent patiently played his lands and I played Demonic Tutor and got Palace Jailer, while I was holding Miscalculation. I then decided to play Palace Jailer on turn 4 even though he had no creature to exile. I tapped out and it resolved, as Miscalculation was losing power. I became The Monarch. I drew a card. He then killed my board with Toxic Deluge. I knew this was a possibility and tried not to overcommit, but I figured the card draw of The Monarch status would make it okay if it happened. I then played Duskwatch Recruiter and Tidehollow Sculler, taking away his Dismember for a while. His hand was good though, with Sultai Charm (which I countered) and Golgari Charm which blanked my Parallax Wave. I missed a Monarch trigger which sucked. What sucked more was that I did not draw another land in six cards. I also had Lightning Angel and Tribal Flames which I couldn’t cast missing red mana. He played Scavenging Ooze restoring his life and Tarmogoyf which were both big. I played Swords to Plowshares on the Ooze but was in an awkward spot and made some suboptimal decisions. Instead of playing the Parallax Wave and being mana efficient I held it to avoid the Golgari Charm. After he had used his Golgari Charm to regenerate his Tarmogoyf against my Tribal Flames, in the process countering my Mana Drain the Parallax Wave was too late and I lost a game I probably could have won with very tight play although my opponent made no mistakes and had the perfect answers. Game 2 was not a game unfortunately. I mulliganed to 6 on the play, kept a sketchy hand and got stuck on 3 lands and 4 mana spells while my opponent was happily hitting all his land drops. I then proceeded to draw only black spells after he had used Tectonic Edge on the fourth land which was the only black source I had finally found and I lost hard. Nothing I could do in that one.
All in all I am very happy with the deck. Of course I would have liked to win everything but Magic is hard. I got a bit lucky by not facing any of the really annoying decks like UR, RDW and Artifacts this time. I have beaten those decks before but they are more challenging to beat than sorcery speed creature decks. My 5C list is a very fun deck with great cards all the way through and if you think you can manage the mind-warping fetch-decisions then you should definitely try it. It can pressure back well, counters spells and disrupts and plays many of the greatest cards ever printed. It will still be good when everyone plays Palace Jailer. And after Palace Jailer is banned. I would not change anything right now. The only thing I might have to consider is putting in Shambling Vent over Stirring Wildwood but I have to check on that in the mana science lab. It’s the perfect deck to keep working on my play and I must. This story concludes my 5C series for now and I hope you enjoyed it. Cheers.
Check out the tournament’s top 8 here and my deck:
5C Jailer Palace